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What is a Composition Roof?

Posted October 19, 2021 by Jerry Becker
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A composition roof gets its name because the shingles are composed of several different materials, instead of a single material like wood, metal or clay. Composition roof shingles can be made of a combination of fiberglass, asphalt, wood, paper and other minerals.

A composition roof shingle consists of 3 layers:

  • A base mat. Composition shingles have a base mat that is coated with asphalt. This mat creates a more stable surface for the granules on top of the shingles and the sealant beneath it.
  • Asphalt coating. Composition shingles are coated with at least one layer of asphalt—sometimes multiple depending on which style of shingle you choose. The asphalt helps cushion tiles to protect the roof from damage caused by hail or debris.
  • Granules on top. The granules are what you see when you look at the roof. The granules are made of crushed materials that protect the asphalt from ultraviolet rays (which cause asphalt to break down) and provide fire resistance.

Composition roofs are a popular choice for many Portland homeowners because they’re:

  • Cost-effective: Asphalt shingles are generally more affordable than roofs made from single materials, including wood shake, clay, or metal. That said, you could end up paying more for a composition roof if you choose premium shingles and certain upgrades.
  • Durable: Asphalt shingles are naturally resistant to fire (from the top granules) and impact from hail or other small debris (thanks to cushioning from the asphalt). You can upgrade to shingles that resist algae growth, which usually pays off in climates as rainy as Oregon’s. Unfortunately, anti-moss shingles don’t exist, so if your roofer says they can offer that, get a second opinion.
  • Versatile: Asphalt shingles come in a variety of types, styles and colors. You can choose just about any tile color or combination to customize your composition roof just the way you want it.

Types of Composition Roof Shingles

All asphalt shingles will have the same general construction we outlined above, but you can choose from 2 different types of asphalt shingles:

  1. Organic asphalt composition shingles
  2. Fiberglass composition shingles

Organic Composition Shingles

Organic asphalt shingles consist of a felt, paper, or wood pulp base mat that’s coated in at least one layer of asphalt.

Most Portland roof installers prefer the advanced features of fiberglass shingles.

Fiberglass Composition Shingles

Fiberglass shingles differ from organic asphalt shingles because the base mat is made of woven fiberglass that’s reinforced with synthetic resin.

Compared to organic composition shingles, fiberglass shingles are:

  • Lighter
  • More expensive
  • More water- and fire-resistant

Styles of Composition Roof Shingles

Whether you choose organic asphalt or fiberglass composition shingles, you can select from 2 styles of shingles:

  1. 3-tab composition shingles
  2. Architectural composition shingles

Both shingle styles come in a variety of color and shape options.

3-Tab Composition Shingles

Also called strip shingles, are the most basic shingle options. They consist of 3 tabs, one of which sits underneath the row of shingles above it.

Three-tab shingles only have one coat of asphalt, which makes them less durable than architectural composition shingles, but also more affordable.

Architectural Composition Shingles

Also known as dimensional shingles or laminate shingles, architectural shingles have at least 2 coats of asphalt to make them thicker and give them more dimension. This gives them a higher-quality appearance.

Many Oregon homeowners choose architectural composition roofs because the tiles are more heavy-duty and they can choose tiles that look like wood shake or natural slate roofs.

What Is the Lifespan of a Composition Roof?

Composition roofs can last anywhere from 20–50 years.

How long a composition roof lasts depends on:

  • The type and style of shingles. Organic asphalt shingles typically last longer than fiberglass shingles, and architectural shingles will last significantly (likely 5–10 years) longer than 3-tab shingles.
  • The shingle quality. In addition to choosing a type of asphalt shingle, you can choose from shingles that range from the more affordable lower-quality shingles to high-quality ones. Higher-quality shingles will cost more upfront, but they’ll hold up better against the elements than low-quality shingles will.
  • How well your roof is maintained. Like anything else in your home, roofs aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Your roof needs regular check-ups to make sure there aren’t any issues that could turn into expensive problems or repairs.
  • Whether the roof was properly installed. Improper roof installation causes a roof to have a much shorter lifespan than it would with proper installation. Improper installation could mean not following universal roofing principles or manufacturer guidelines when installing parts of the roof.
  • The local climate. Rain and ice can be the downfall of any roof. Over time, your roof can develop cracks or other weak spots that allow water to seep through the roof and cause leaks in your home. And on the few freezing days during Oregon winters, expanding and contracting ice can weaken or loosen shingles, breaking the roof’s waterproof seal.

Contact Us for a Composition Roof in Portland, OR

Call us at (503) 925-0125 or fill out the form below to get a quote to install a composition roof on your home, or repair your existing one.

Our professionals will give you a variety of composition roofing options, then help you choose the best one for your home. At Roof Life of Oregon, we care about your roof as much as you do, and will be sure to properly install your composition roof so it will last decades.

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